August 29, 2012

Persuasion Read Along #3

END (chapters 19-end)

Here we go, the final part! Once again, this read along is part of Austen in August, hosted by The Book Rat.

What was your initial reaction to Persuasion as a whole? Did you connect with Anne as a heroine, and Wentworth as a hero? 

I felt very satisfied as I finished reading the book. It took me a while, but I do feel like I connected with both Anne and Wentworth. I think both of them had built up such high walls that it was difficult even for me as the reader to connect with them. But their actions were very much redeemed in the end.

Has your perception of Persuasion changed since reading it, especially if you've read it more than once?  

I have read Persuasion before, but I don't really remember it all that well. I can say, however, that I continued to enjoy the novel more and more as I kept reading during this read along. The novel starts out very slowly with so many details and back-story, but then it really builds upon that knowledge as the story continues.

The characters are constantly on the move in Persuasion (from Kellynch to Uppercross to Lyme to Bath, etc), so the reader gets to see a variety of scenes; did you like the constant changes of scenery? Did you have a favorite? Do you think the different locations bring out different aspects of the characters?

I didn't mind the change of scenery from a reader's perspective. I don't think Austen is a very image-oriented writer, so the different locations really didn't matter to my visualization of anything. But I think the movement is essential to the characters and their development. Without movement between locations, the characters wouldn't have had so many different ways and opportunities to interact with one another and grow through it. I suppose I liked Lyme the best of all the places simply because it is there where Anne really starts to gain self-assurance and recognize her own worth.

Discuss one of the biggest fangirl-inducing moments in Austen: "The Letter;" did you know the ending was originally written without "The Letter" in it? Do you think your overall perception of the story would change without "The Letter"?

I did hear that the ending originally did not include the letter. In fact, the version of the book that I own (The Modern Library Classics) does include the original ending. I'll be honest, however, and say that I didn't read it. The original two final chapters looked like two letters with no paragraphs and tons of dashes. In other words, a headache I didn't feel like taking the time to read right then and there. I'll probably read the original ending eventually just for comparison's sake. But I can't see that ending being even close to as good - I loved the letter! It was such a swoon-worthy way that Wentworth declared his undying love and affection for her. It reminds me a little of Pride and Prejudice there, but that doesn't diminish how appropriate and enjoyable reading about Anne reading the letter and the immediate aftermath was. Romantic that I am, I like it when characters I love end up loving each other and being happy.

What do you anticipate for the futures of any of the characters, but particularly Anne? Will her family ever come to accept Wentworth, or is she essentially disowning herself by marrying him?

I think that Austen hints at how Anne's family will now accept Wentworth. Wentworth is far better off than any of them currently are. Anne's father even adds Anne's marriage to Wentworth in the family history book. I do think it was necessary for Anne to start asserting her own independence in smaller ways first, which she does through her visits to Mrs. Smith and general attitude while in Bath. She's not rude to her family, but her self-confidence forces them to look at her in a new way. And her family is now getting to know Wentworth as a man of quality, which of course makes her own family look better. So I don't imagine any problems there. I am not convinced that life will ever really improve for Anne's family, but I do believe that Anne and Wentworth can live a life of enjoyment together.

On reflection, are you ever bothered by the fact that Anne is essentially put in the same position - to give up the life she knows and loves for Wentworth, and that the same is never expected of him? Does this bother your modern sensibilities, or do you think the right decision is made regardless?

I never really considered that. It doesn't really bother me, however. Anne doesn't have much to lose. She doesn't have a career or passion or anything really in life (which is sad). Plus her family is not the most supportive system. Wentworth is established in life and thus can provide for her. I'd clarify the changes in Anne's life as her gaining a husband, a better station, and the potential for happiness, rather than her actually losing anything here.

What were your favorite parts of the novel? Your least favorite? Things you wish were different?

My favorite parts were all those interactions between Anne and Wentworth. I would love to be able to take those scenes out of the book and just put them together so I could see uninterrupted just how their relationship is able to be rekindled after these eight years. After reading through the entire book and seeing that Anne and Wentworth manage to stay together despite the odds, I do think that Mary's role in the story is rather amusing. Whenever I was reading a scene that featured her prominently I was torn between wanting to bang my head against a wall and laughing. I think that from now on I can favor the desire to laugh, because she really is a ridiculous character and probably on par with Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.

Any last thoughts on the book?

I found it extremely difficult to read Persuasion while also reading so many "lighter fare" books. But I do love it! I love how through this novel Jane Austen really examines love and loss, and yet ultimately makes the message that true love will wait for those who deserve it. Maybe it's not the most realistic message ever, but it makes the romantic in me happy. And I thoroughly enjoyed watching Anne's transformation over the course of the book from a passive young woman who feels far older than her age to someone who learns to be guided by her own desires and is able to gain self-confidence.

This read along was fun! I'll definitely sign up for more in the future!
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.

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